A Systems Story (Systems Thinking)

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BEE Environmental Communication
Published at : 12 Dec 2020
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A Systems Story - A short introduction to key systems thinking concepts (subtitles available in English, Japanese, Indonesian, Arabic and Turkish)

Directed by: Gyula Gábor Tóth, Videographer : Dénes Fellegi, Design: Enikő Simonyi, Text: Gyula Gábor Tóth, Linda Juhász-Horváth, Narration: Sarah Czunyi, Action: Szilvia Penyigey

BEE Environmental Communication
bee.co.hu

Balaton Group
www.balatongroup.org

For educational use, you can download definitions of key concepts introduced in the video here:
http://bee.co.hu/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Definitions_A-Systems-Story.pdf

***

'A Sufi story tells of a village of blind men. One day, a new creature arrived. Each of the men grasped one part of it, and declared they knew what it was:
- A snake!
- A rug!
- Columns!
But by only experiencing one part of it – each was wrong.

In our everyday lives, we also tend to look at things in parts rather than experiencing the world as a whole. This is not surprising, as such divisions start early on in school where we are divided into a range of subjects. Yet, the world is much more complex. If we are to understand its complexity, we have to think about the greater picture. We have to think in systems. Let’s illustrate this with a universal example: love.

- Do you love me? - Yes. - But how much?
In our love systems, the amount of love is always crucial (stock). Some things help love grow – such as laughter and good conversation… (inflows) However, the amount of love can also diminish, such as after a bad argument. (outflows). Thankfully we have precious moments in life, like a honeymoon, where we ensure our love is strengthened (reinforcing feedback loop), while in the everyday we tend to settle for a sweet harmony (balancing feedback loop). Indeed our love systems are extremely sensitive. In some cases, tiny actions can have a huge effect, (non-linearity) while others take some time to manifest (delays).

Yet love doesn’t just exist between two people – it’s much more than that. Love also exists between brothers and sisters, kids and parents, within family circles, and also among friends and wider communities. In reality, love connects us all. (non-existent boundaries)

However, we often damage love by repeating the same mistakes and not recognizing unintended consequences. For example, grounding a naughty child to ‘teach’ good behavior, could make them more rebellious. (policy resistance) Sometimes even small arguments can turn into large and messy fights. (escalation) As adults, we make promises to our parents to call them more often… but this can soon fade as time passes. (eroding goals) We can also become fixed to distractions not realizing that this may be creating deeper disconnects in a relationship. (addiction) And too often we lose sight of what really makes us happy. (seeking wrong goals)

Although we all tend to make such mistakes in love, there are wisdoms that can guide us towards systemic solutions:

Take time to understand the system
Make your language meaningful and truthful
Favour quality over quantity
Acknowledge mistakes, stay a learner
Go for the good of the whole

So why don’t we use such wisdoms to understand more complex systems, not just love?'
systems thinkingclimate changeSystem (Quotation Subject)

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